Why the U.S. does not use the metric system is beyond me, but alas, we’ve had to struggle with converting units from standard to metric throughout school, and as you may have noticed, throughout life, since practically everyone else uses them. The metric units and their prefixes are important to know so that you can easily convert measurements which can be helpful in baking, cooking, building, and just about anything that requires measuring. But because we fail to go in depth about the metric system in our schools, I’ll give you a quick rundown of its history.
The metric system was crafted in 1791 by a commission assigned to the task of standardizing units of measurement into a single, logical, scientific system by the French Academy of Sciences. The result was the metric system, which is a decimal system of measurement that allows you to easily convert between different metric units of measurement since all of its prefixes are in powers of 10.
To make your life easier so that you can finally learn the metric prefixes and convert standard units with ease, here are a few easy ways to memorize them.
You might have learned this method in grade-school, but chances are, you’ve probably forgotten it. Mnemonics are a great way for memorizing many things, including the metric prefixes. The most popular one that seems to help people easily remember them is the mnemonic “King Henry Died Drinking Chocolate Milk.” The “K” stands for kilo, “H” stands for hecto, “D” stands for deca, “the second “D” is for deci, “C” is for centi, and “M” is for milli. This is a great tool to memorize the metric prefixes because each letter corresponds to a basic prefix, plus they’re in order from largest to smallest.
List Prefixes on a Line
Another way you can learn the metric prefixes is by listing them out on a line. If you’re like me, you retain information better by writing it down, and repeating it for a number of times can make it stick in your brain even more. By listing the prefixes on a line by going from largest to smallest, starting from left to right. So, you would put “Kilo” on the far left, and “Milli” at the far right, and at the middle of the scale, place “Unit” as your base unit for the dimension you’re measuring. That is, if you’re measuring distance, for example, you’d write “meters,” or if it’s volume, “liters,” and so on. The line provides a visual reference for how the units relate and how much larger or smaller they are. The more you write it down and practice, it the more you will remember the order of the metric prefixes.
Using a chart can be helpful for memorizing the metric prefixes, as well. Referring back to a chart enough times when doing conversions will eventually stick to your brain like glue so that soon enough, you won’t need it anymore. It’s also handy for when you think you’ve memorized it, but you’ve forgotten what unit to convert to, and can just refer back to it. While a chart may not seem like the best option for learning the metric units, don’t doubt its ability to ingrain into your mind. After studying the chart, the next thing you know, you’ll be a pro at converting units.